Liberté - Liberté(Blu Ray) [Second Run - 2021]
Liberté is an example of art-house cinema at it’s mostly grimly perverse & lullingly deranged. The films set one night between dusk & dawn in a murky forest – based just before the French revolution, it focuses in on a group of expelled aristocrats involved in all manner of depravity, though this is far from a titling smut fest- instead, it’s a bleak & at times distrbinding study of human perversity. Here from Second Run is a recent free Blu Ray release of this controversial film- featuring a high definition/ full uncut print of the film, a few extras & a glossy inlay booklet.
Liberté is a 2019 film by Catalonian director/ writer/ producer Albert Serra- its 9th feature-length film. His career started in the early 2000s with the musical comedy Crespià, the film not the village- which charted a summer festivities in the Catalan village- and boy is Liberté the complete polar opposite of his first film. It’s an extremely languidly paced feature that comes in at the two hours and seventeen-minute mark- largely set in murk, shadow & half-light- with all the characters been emotionless & cold depravity seekers. So it’s most certainly neither an easy nor in any way pleasing watch- it’s a dark( both in tone & setting) and uneasy film, that lifts the grey flaps of human perversion, and stares deep into the abyss.
The film is set in 1774, a few years before the French Revolution, taking place in a forest somewhere between Potsdam and Berlin. Madame de Dumeval, the Duke of Tesis and the Duke of Wand, and their group of libertines have been expelled from the court of Louis XVI. And in their wooded hideout, they meet up with the Duke of Walchen, a notorious seducer and free thinker from Germany.
The film opens at early dusk in the forest- as the group discuss various violent & bestiality focused fantasies. As the light fades the leering and lurking figures start to slowly mill in & around the trees and foliage- carrying out fleeting perversions. But as the long night drags on, we focus in on the perversity as it grows & sprouts- taking place in both the forest & the two carriages the aristocrats have brought into the woods. At first what is going on is either implied, off-screen or in deep shadow- but by around the hour mark the implication slips, and we drive deep into murky depravity- be it bondage, waterworks, whippings, or general depraved acts. The encounters are filmed in an always troubling & voyeuristic manner- so nothing is titillating about the action. The film's pace remains grimly lulling through-out, with just the sounds of the forest being it's soundtrack.
Liberté is a film that needs both patience & concentration- it’s art-house with a capital A, and you need to have some grounding in the form to get even twenty minutes into the film. I certainly found it an effectively troubling - with an atmosphere that’s thick with cold eye depravity & subtle unease. Sure it did seem to drag & lag at points, but as a whole Liberté was a disturbingly impactful film- that features some memorably unsettling imagery.
Moving onto this new region free disc- the film is in French/ German, with the English sub-titles been largely clear & readable. The high definition print is good, though of-course due to lighting/ setting the whole thing is largely murky. On the disc extra wise, we get a just over three-minute introduction from director Albert Serra- here he roughly outlines what expect & how filmmaking will be after the passing of Covid. Next, we get a twenty-seven-minute on-screen interview with Serra- he answers a selection of written down questions, and while he does come off a tad pretentious- he gives some interesting/ worthy answers. We get an original trailer- this does make the film a lot more pacey & dramatic than it is- but don’t all trailers do that. With the the disc you get a twenty-four-page glossy inlay booklet-this features a three-page essay about the film from author/ curator Jason Wood, an in-depth eleven-page interview with Serra, full credits & stills.
Liberté will appeal to those who enjoy grim & transgressive art-house cinema. And it goes without saying it’s certainly not a film for everyone, but kudos to Second Run for putting it out & giving this grimly sordid film a classy presentation.